13 years ago today, a handful of people killed thousands of other people. Like many, I was in another country, another city, watching the horrific events unfold on my television screen. I saw things that day that I will never forget. My prayers are with the families and friends who lost loved ones that day. My thanks goes to the brave men and women who worked to rescue and save as many people as they could, putting their own lives at risk as they did so.
God bless you.
But the one thing I will never forget is what happened in England a couple of days after the events of 9/11. You see, I was living in England at the time, working in the northwest. One of my colleagues got a call, saying there was a problem at her son’s school and she needed to go right away.
When she came back to work the next day, she told me what had happened. Her son got beat up on the school playground, because he “looked like a terrorist.”
Her son at the time was 10 years old. The grandson of a Roman Catholic who had emigrated from South America. He was born, as were his parents, in England. He had gone to school with these other kids since he had started school. And yet, they racially profiled him and attacked him.
I vowed to never forget this, as this is what fear does.
Fear causes hate, irrational thinking, bigotry, racism, and general stupidity. Fear causes paranoia and anxiety. Fear would like nothing more than to rip our communities apart, pitting brother against brother, leading to our destruction.
Sometimes fear is caused by real events. ISIS really has been slaughtering whole towns and villages and beheading people. Sometimes fear tries to convince you it is more powerful than it is, by lying to you. How many rumours and false posts have you seen on the internet lately? Fear roars loud, tries to intimidate you into inaction or stupid action.
But as a Christian, I believe we have nothing to fear but God. And because of Jesus and what Jesus did on the cross, I’m not sure I need to fear God. Revere, honour and worship – yes. Cower in the corner of God’s throne room and try to hide ashamed – no.
Because – “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 NIV). God loves us. And His love frees and encourages us to love others.
Some people don’t want to be loved, like ISIS. They want to be feared.
Well I’m not about to give terrorists what they want.
So how can we respond?
In 2007, Rhys Jones was walking home from football practice when he was shot in the back by a gang member of one of the local gangs. His murder sparked an entire community in Liverpool to respond. People cried “In Rhys’ Name Get Guns Off Our Streets.” A friend of mine, Liam Moore, got children together from the two rival gang areas – Croxteth and Norris Green. The children formed a choir called The Voice of One and sang the song “You’re the Voice”. They were empowered to stand up to the gangs, say no to drugs, no to knife crime, no to gangs, and no to guns. They were told that they have a choice. They don’t have to “sit in silence”; they don’t have to “live in fear.”
We can learn so much from those courageous children – who are now young adults!
13 years since 9/11, we need to make sure people know they have a choice. “No more living in fear.” “No more flowers on the streets.” “No more divided communities.” (Voice in the City – http://youtu.be/Wkers-0iGLg)